Cheers for joy as region's newest Australians take pledge

Cheers for joy as Moyne Shire's newest Australians take pledge

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PROUD AUSSIES: Koroit's Harper Kilpatrick and Jaqueline Thomas are Moyne Shire's newest Australians. Picture: Anthony Brady

PROUD AUSSIES: Koroit's Harper Kilpatrick and Jaqueline Thomas are Moyne Shire's newest Australians. Picture: Anthony Brady

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South-west Victorian dairy farmer Harper Kilpatrick took the citizenship pledge on Tuesday, 10 years after coming to Australia.

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A WOMAN on a 55-year journey to become an Australian cheered for joy as she made a citizenship pledge and a dairy farmer who sees a country full of opportunity feels "privileged" to formally call the nation home.

Koroit's Jaqueline Thomas and Harper Kilpatrick took the citizen pledge at Moyne Shire's Australia Day ceremony in Garvoc, Vic, on Tuesday.

Mr Kilpatrick moved to Australia with wife Oonagh in 2011, after leaving Northern Ireland for the Middle East and then on to a Koroit farm they bought in 2009.

In Northern Ireland Mr Kilpatrick said the couple milked about 100 cows, but that's grown nowadays to 1200 across two south-west farms.

"We wanted to farm on a large scale and Australia has allowed us to do that," he said. "They call it the lucky country, but it's a land of opportunity."

The Kilpatricks employ nine workers and have become involved in community organisations and dairy groups.

"I enjoy listening to the politics so it was time I could vote," Mr Kilpatrick said. "It's a privilege".

Ms Thomas arrived in the south-west from the south of England in 1966, following her brother and sister who arrived as ten pound Poms about five years earlier.

"I stepped foot on Australian soil and I knew I was really not going to go back to England to live," she said.

Ms Thomas went back to England for just over 12 months once but has never returned to live, spending a career in Warrnambool at a chemist, as a beautician, then mostly at a shoe store.

Plans to travel overseas recently made her aware her British passport expired 50 years ago and prompted her into action to formally become an Australian.

"This is 55 years in the making," she said.

Ms Thomas says she loves "the informality" of Australian life, particularly because saying hello to a total stranger can be considered normal.

"I loved the people, they were so welcoming and warm. I loved the big open expanse of the country," she said.

Meanwhile, the ceremony also recognised Woolsthorpe's Stephenee Hines as the shire's young citizen of the year.

Stephenee is a leader at Brauer College's Kakay Group for Aboriginal girls and a Moyne Shire Youth councillor.

"Last year was difficult with remote learning especially, it was through continuing to keep in contact with the Kakay Group over Zoom calls that really helped support everyone," the 17-year-old said.

Stephenee is the first in her immediate family to continue schooling beyond year 10, which she says is a "milestone" for her family.

She hopes to use the recognition as a way to encourage more young people to persist with their education.

"I want people to realise, especially kids in school, that school isn't a bad thing. It will get you were you want to go and give you so many more options. You have to keep going."

Bev Moore also accepted her citizen of the year award and the Sungold Field Days received the community event of the year award.

The story Cheers for joy as region's newest Australians take pledge first appeared on The Standard.

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